Heather N. Kolich, ANR Agent, UGA Extension Forsyth County

A stretch of rural road, set in some hills, with vast plumes of smoke in the background.
Wildfires, severe storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods are natural disasters that regularly affect Georgia. Malachi Brooks on Unsplash.com

Some recent headlines caught my attention, and as September is National Preparedness Month, I thought I would revisit them in the context of emergency preparedness and prevention.

Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is a campaign to raise awareness of potential emergencies and disasters and encourage people to take actions to prepare to survive and recover from them. The theme for 2023, Take Control in 1, 2, 3, focuses on preparing older adults for disasters.

Because it is the nature of disasters and emergencies to strike with little or no warning, we need to think about and prepare for them in advance, so that we can self-rescue when something bad happens. Disasters are large scale events that overwhelm the capacity of emergency responders. Emergencies are high-consequence events that affect individuals, families, or communities.

According to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms, wildfires, and floods regularly affect Georgians. The three steps in Take Control in 1, 2, 3 are:

  1. Assess your needs – identify your risks and understand what you will need to weather a disaster situation.
  2. Make a plan – create a comprehensive emergency response plan and an emergency preparedness kit that meets your specific needs.
  3. Engage your support network – build a strong network of family, friends, neighbors, and community organizations for assistance during an emergency.
A rural area, with railroad tracks, overhead power lines, and a large funnel cloud overhead.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, severe storms, floods, and wildfires are natural disasters that regularly affect Georgia. NOAA on Unsplash.com

Learn more in the Take Control in 1, 2, 3 Preparedness Guide at https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2023-09/ready-gov_disaster-preparedness-guide-for-older-adults.pdf .

Of the two recent emergency incidents that made the news, one risk is ever-present and the other is infrequent.

Man meets road. Returning from a motorcycle pleasure ride, a local man suffered an accident that sent him off the road. He landed in a wooded area out of sight from the road. He remained in the woods, injured and undiscovered, for eight days before someone heard him yelling.

Most of us drive or commute on the road regularly. We should expect to encounter a wide variety of road hazards and emergencies, including aggressive drivers, flat tires, poor visibility, wildlife, and, occasionally, Snowmageddon.

While we can’t always prevent road emergencies, we can exert control over how we recover from them. First, identify risks based on roads you travel. Second, think through what you’d need to self-rescue from likely emergency situations. Third, equip your car with essentials, including an emergency kit that includes water, food, warmth, basic first aid, and signaling devices such as a whistle, flashlight, and mirror. Learn more car safety tips at https://www.ready.gov/car .

Homeowner meets bear. While nature-watching is an enjoyable activity, human-wildlife encounters are usually undesirable. In July, a bear wandered into the yard of a homeowner, with disastrous consequences for both.

We can’t change the nature of wild animals, but we can change our behavior to reduce negative interactions with wildlife species that enrich our local ecosystems. Wild animals are attracted to food, especially in the fall when bears and other mammals are driven to consume as much food as they can find in preparation for winter food shortages and/or hibernation. Garbage, bird feeders, and pet food tempt bears into yards. Storing garbage cans in the garage, bringing bird feeders indoors at dusk, and feeding outdoor pets in single servings will help remove the temptation for wildlife to forage in our yards. Learn more at https://bearwise.org/ .